Alexander Samuel Duff

Alexander appears to have been prosperous, but suffered an unstable family life. The son of a natural son, he was a fringe member of the large clan of Duffs in Edinburgh. His mother died after giving birth to him, and his younger brother, son of his second wife, inherited the title his father had bought with his mother's wealth. He married an heiress and built up estates and a family of his own, but if he wished to be remembered as a respectable landed gentleman, his hopes would have been dashed by the wild exploits of his notorious sons.

Lived
12 April 1773 - 23 September 1852 (died in Versailles)
Origin
Grew up in Liverpool, raised presumably by his mother's family (7 p.276). From 1788 his father lived at Mayen House which Alexander and Jane built in 1788, a '2 storey, 3-bay, basement and attic house with central ashlar porch with steps; cast-iron balustrade; semi-circular headed 1st floor window; and piended slate roof platformed with twin central chimneys.' (4)
Father
Colonel Alexander Duff of Mayen, co. Banff 1743-1816, natural son of Alexander Duff of Hatton. He appears as 'Sandy Duff' in the Powell family correspondence (7 p.273). He seems to have been on affectionate terms with his father's wife, Lady Anne, who had no son: her will describes him as 'my faithful and esteemed friend Colonel Duff of Mayen, whose love and affection for me has been such as a child would possess for a parent.' (7 p.274) After Rebecca died Duff remarried in 1785 Jane Abernethie d.1805 daughter of James Abernethie of Mayen, and with Rebecca's money they bought the Mayen estate from her sisters. Alexander's brother William appears to have been the favourite son and inherited Mayen. (7 p.278)
Mother
Rebecca Powell, daughter of Samuel Powell of Liverpool, later of Stanedge Park. She was the heiress to a fortune from her father and uncle, but she died after Alexander Samuel's birth. His father wrote to Lord Fife, 'I have sustained an inexpressible loss of a most valuable wife, who to all appearance was safely delivered ... and for several hours seemed in as good away as possibly could be expected, but about 2 o'clock in the morning she suddenly expired, without any friend in the room perceiving the least alteration. She has left me a very fine boy, who is, in all probability likely to do well. This is now become so melancholy a place that I intend setting out for the north in ten or twelve days.' (7 p.274)
Profession
Joined the Militia in 1798 and obtained a commission in 1799, promoted Lieutenant and Captain in 1800. (7 p.278)
Wealth at death
'Alexander Samuel died at Versailles in 1852. He left considerable landed property in Denbigh and Shropshire. In his will he mentions the estates of Bangour, Marchwiel, Whitworth, Dodington, Edgeley, Tilston, and Whixall, but these were sold.' (7 p.278)
Chapel connection
1811 (baptism)
Married on
13 December 1808 in St Mary's Dublin (3)
Spouse
Mary Finlay (3)
Children
Henry Powell (8 March 1811) (1). (7 p.273) gives children as: William Higginson (1811-1855), Folliott (1818-1872), Robina Mary, and Baroness Cary. Presumably Henry Powell died in infancy and William's birth is mistakenly assumed to be the one announced in the Scots Magazine that year (7 p.278). 'The two sons, ... 'Billy', and Folliot, enjoyed a good deal of notoriety in London in the mid-Victorian days. They were both, at one time, in the Army... It was Billy who gave to the Army and Navy club its nickname of 'Rag'. Coming in to supper late one night, he found the fare so meagre that he declared it was only a 'rag and famish' affair... Ralph Neville, who relates the above... adds that "Billy was a celebrated man about town at a time when knocker-wrenching and similar pranks were in favour. His exploits in this line were notorious".' He ended up in 1841 being arrested for violent assult of a policeman and getting £100 fine and six months in jail. He left the Army, but continued to 'amuse London with his pranks', with a museum of things he collected including door handles, buttons, signboards, and a French soldier's helmet. He was said to have kidnapped the baby of a dog-stealer and held it hostage for the return of his dog. Folliot 'was more of a harmless eccentric' who lived in Belgrave Road and 'used to write his name in blue chalk on the pavement outside his house and on neighbouring walls' and had a wife and three daughters. (7 p.279-280)

Sources

  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. Irish Genealogy Church Records database, online accessed 8 June 2010
  4. Aberdeenshire Council Records: Mayen House, online accessed 8 June 2010
  5. James Imlach, 'History of Banff', (Robert Lease, Banff, 1868) p.96-7
  6. French genealogy site, Geneanet, accessed 8 June 2010
  7. Alistair and Henrietta Taylor, The book of the Duffs (Constable and co, Edinburgh, 1914)

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